Put Servant Leadership into Practice

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard business leaders, community leaders, experts, etc., talk on and on about servant leadership. It’s fascinating that we all talk about how much we value servant leaders, we want to be led by servant leaders, and strive to become one. Yet it’s still so rare to see it before your eyes in real life. 

One of the most effective ways I’ve experienced to really put your money where your mouth is on this one is to actually go out and serve others. I don’t mean to be the last to get coffee or the one to physically open the door for others. I mean literally get your hands dirty with your team by taking a company serve day.

I’m sure you’re wondering how this does anything besides pay your employees for volunteering at a local agency when they could be working.

When you say you’re a servant leader, people may believe you initially. But until they see you give someone else the control you typically have, that belief will fade.

When you take your team or, better yet, the whole company out on a day where they can serve your community, you show them in the flesh that you’re letting someone else have control.

Here’s how.

Company Serve Days allow the people who are serving your community, day in and day out, to shine.

They are the ones giving instructions, not you. They are the ones explaining what the real needs are in your community, not you. This simple example of letting another group have control or power, even if only for a day, shows you may be more flexible and serving than originally thought.

Company Serve Days allow you to spend time with people you wouldn’t normally see and to learn about them.

This is not your chance to let them ask you questions or sit in silence together. Though if they do ask questions, please answer them with a mindset that shows you're thinking of the good of the whole and not just high level. If you’re working on a construction project, ask them if they’ve ever built anything before. If you’re stocking shelves at a food pantry, ask them about the food they enjoy. It doesn’t have to be just about who they are at work but as a whole person. Feel free to also ask about their passions and things they do for fun. This will give you a window into other things they are good at and enjoy, which may come in handy when you have a special project.

Company Serve Days let you have fun and make fun of yourself.

When you’re the one calling the shots, it could be great to see you cleaning toilets. The role reversal shows you’re not above tasks and are a team player, seeing a job this organization needs and having an attitude of “I’m here to help.” Side note: if you complain at all, get impatient, or show any questioning of what the group is asking you to do, you’ll kill any momentum a company serve day helps you build. No one wants to hear a leader talk about how much we value servant leadership and then watch us struggle or ignore someone who works directly in the community because we think we know better. At best, it will be a company joke — and at worst, people will think you’re a phony, trying to tick a box of servant leadership and are the opposite, a self-serving leader.

Before you begin your Company Serve Day, do your research on groups in your area. It could also be team building by asking your team for referrals of agencies they know that do great work, only helping you with buy-in. Learn what these groups focus on and give them a chance to explain why what their doing matters to the whole company, not just you. You’ll learn about their volunteer processes and what the day will look like, which will help you release that control with a little bit more ease.

Your heart is in the right place. Now is the time to show that you really can serve and not just talk about servant leadership.

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